The rights group says riot police fired tear gas to disperse a peaceful funeral procession for famed rapper Azagaia.
A human rights group has urged authorities in Mozambique to investigate the alleged use of tear gas by police at a funeral for a popular rapper known for his critical stance against the government.
Edson da Luz, known as Azagaia, died last week due to a sudden illness, and his death sparked vigils in Angola and Mozambique. In a new report on Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said police dispersed his supporters with tear gas at his funeral on Tuesday.
It urged the government to investigate the incident.
The funeral was held with thousands of people joining the convoy that carried the coffin to the cemetery. Songs by the late singer were heard on the main streets of Maputo, the country’s capital, in tribute to Azagaia.
Videos posted on social media showed the audience singing Vampiros (Vampires), a song that likens corrupt leaders to vampires.
“You have no sword, you have no sword. Vampiros. Os vampiros!”.
Ate semper mano Azagaia.
Sou privilegiado por partilhar o tempo e espaço consigo. pic.twitter.com/QlXe5vexkp
— Rafael Machalela (@rafaelmachalela) March 14, 2023
Translation: “You don’t see, they don’t care about you, they don’t care about you. Vampires. Vampires!” I see you forever, brother Azagaia. I have the privilege of sharing time and space with you.
As people approached the president’s official residence — an area off-limits to pedestrians — police fired tear gas at mourners without warning after ordering the crowd to change their route, HRW said in the report.
The report also said that heavily armed riot police and three armored vehicles were deployed to block the crowd.
Collecting accounts from several witnesses, HRW followed the event through social and local media and witnessed the use of tear gas.
“We wanted to take the coffin to Michafutene (cemetery) and they (the police) never told us why we couldn’t,” a 22-year-old man told HRW. “Instead, they nervously yelled at us and showed us their guns.”
A 26-year-old woman said: “I left my house to honor Azagaia, not to fight the police. We had no guns; they had lots of guns and tear gas.”
According to United Nations Guidelines on the use of less lethal weapons to enforce the law, tear gas should not be used to disperse nonviolent demonstrations.
HRW called for a probe.
“Mozambique police, responsible for safety and security at funeral processions or other public gatherings, must always adhere to human rights standards for the use of force,” said Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, deputy director for Africa at HRW.
“An impartial investigation is needed to determine whether officials rushed unnecessarily to use tear gas and to hold them accountable,” she said.